Clifton House unveils plans for 250th Anniversary Year

Next year Clifton House will mark its 250th year with an exciting 12-month programme of activity, starting in January 2024.  First opening its doors in 1774, Clifton House is the oldest working building in Belfast. It remains the home of Belfast Charitable Society, who fundraised, built it, and managed it from 1774, and who ensure that its uses remain true to the charity’s mission … to look after those in need.    


During the annual Clifton House Benn Dinner today (Wednesday 13th December), a long running tradition in itself, the Lord Mayor of Belfast, Councillor Ryan Murphy, along with the Chair of Belfast Charitable Society, David Watters unveiled plans for the 250th year celebration. Attendees, who included board members, partners and stakeholders, heard about the variety of special legacy projects, talks, tours, conferences, exhibitions and social media campaigns which will all help to tell the story of Clifton House throughout its 250 years!   


David Watters explained “I am honoured to take this wonderful charity, and its home, Clifton House, into a yearlong programme of celebration. The charity is not wasting this opportunity on mere celebrations but instead will bring others together to talk about the reality of poverty and disadvantage today – with an aim to answer the question ‘What would Belfast Charitable Society need to ‘build’ in 2024 to meet the needs of the disadvantaged, as it did back in 1774?’” 


David added ‘It is fantastic to welcome so many of our supporters into Clifton House today for the launch of our anniversary plans, in conjunction with our 141st Benn Dinner. This event was first held in the winter of 1882 after George Benn, a renowned local philanthropist, bequeathed £1,000 to fund the residents of Clifton House to gather and have a Christmas lunch. Since then, the Belfast Charitable Society has continued to support this tradition in his name. This year is even more significant as we share our ambitious plans for 2024. Plans which allow us to tell our history in new ways and engage and gather further support to shape the next 250 years!” 


The Benn Dinner is traditionally attended by the Lord Mayor of Belfast, and this year was no exception. The residents of Clifton House were delighted to welcome and chat with Councillor Ryan Murphy, who was accompanied by the Junior Trade of Commerce and Santa himself!   


Councillor Murphy said “Clifton House, home of the Belfast Charitable Society, is such an asset to the history and heritage of our city. I was delighted to attend today and hear more about the exciting 250th anniversary plans, which will commence in January 2024. Each year from 1882, Belfast’s first citizen has had the pleasure of coming to this amazing building and paying respect to our city’s older people through the tradition of the Benn Dinner. It’s a real privilege to now be a part of that history, as the 141st Lord Mayor to attend this incredible annual event. I have no doubt that it, along with all the activity that happens within Clifton House, will continue to run for years and years to come. I wish you all the best of luck with the anniversary, and for the next 250 years of this remarkable institution.”   


Since first opening its doors in January 1774, Clifton House has been an iconic sight on the city’s skyline, synonymous with addressing poverty and disadvantage. Paula Reynolds, Chief Executive of Belfast Charitable Society commented “In our 250th year, as well as reflecting on our long history of philanthropy and social reform, we also want to look forward to our next 250 years. We want to continue to challenge and innovate, and will be, throughout the year, asking our supporters and followers ‘What should the next 250 years look like’? We can’t wait to deliver our calendar of 250th Anniversary events, and look forward to welcoming more people through our doors in 2024.” For more information on the 250th Anniversary year, visit Clifton House 250.